Fox News rolls out the red carpet for another high-profile alleged sexual assailant
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Kavanaugh, sat down with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum last night in an attempt to cast doubt on multiple reports that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women at parties in high school and college. Fox News -- and MacCallum’s show, specifically -- were made for this moment. And they delivered.
In the interview -- which President Donald Trump promoted on Twitter shortly before it aired -- MacCallum did not point to any details that undermine Kavanaugh’s defenses nor did she mention support for the accounts of misconduct made public by Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez. Yet the interview immediately garnered praise from some right-wing media figures.
While MacCallum’s interview may have cleared the incredibly low bar some people have for Fox News, she still offered a largely friendly platform for Kavanaugh to try to rehabilitate his image in advance of Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his reported misconduct.
Kavanaugh labeled Ford’s and Ramirez’s credible reports of sexual assault “false accusations” that he characterized as jeopardizing his “lifelong record” of supporting women’s rights.
"I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process." —Brett Kavanaugh
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 24, 2018
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Did you guys ever look at each other and say: "I’m out, this is enough. This just isn’t worth it"?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: I’m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process. And we’re looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend the -- my integrity, my lifelong record -- my lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I’m not going anywhere.
At one point, Kavanaugh attempted to discredit the multiple reports of misconduct by saying he hadn’t had penetrative sex until well into college. MacCallum did not note that both Ford and Ramirez allege nonpenetrative assault, let alone tackle the numerous other reasons why this statement that he was “a virgin” is irrelevant.
KAVANAUGH: We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends —
MACCALLUM: So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?
KAVANAUGH: That’s correct.
MACCALLUM: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?
MACCALLUM: And through what years in college since we’re probing into your personally life here?
KAVANAUGH: Many years after. I’ll leave it at that.
Here are some other notable details the interview did not cover:
- the questionable credibility and rampant misogyny of Mark Judge, a conservative commentator and longtime friend of Kavanaugh who Ford says was present for her assault;
- unresolved questions about possible coordination between Kavanaugh, the White House, Senate Republicans, and conservative operative Ed Whelan -- including evidence Whelan may have known Ford’s name before she went public with her account;
- corroborating evidence of Ford’s account;
- accounts and firsthand evidence detailing a toxic, alcohol-fueled, misogynistic culture at Kavanaugh’s schools -- and in school groups he specifically belonged to; and
- a report that Kavanaugh was known to favor female law clerks who “looked like models.”
MacCallum also failed to get an answer on whether Kavanaugh actually wants an FBI investigation.
This all makes sense given MacCallum’s history.
Assuming former Fox News executive and current White House communications staffer Bill Shine was involved in the process of securing this interview, it’s no wonder he went for MacCallum -- a former colleague with a demonstrated loyalty to at least one serial harasser and his enablers and a reported willingness to attack other women on their behalf; a white woman far less controversial or well-known to the general public than Laura Ingraham or her predecessor Megyn Kelly; a modern icon of subtle internalized misogyny.
MacCallum was already on the record with her own dismissals of the Kavanaugh reports
It would have been no secret to Kavanaugh, the Trump White House, or other GOP leaders exactly where Martha MacCallum stood before the interview. As recently as Sunday, she tweeted that she’d heard others characterize Kavanaugh’s treatment by Senate Democrats as “sickening.”
- In the days since Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer first reported in The New Yorker on a report of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, MacCallum has twice hosted Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino, a pro-Kavanaugh conservative activist. (And Severino again made an appearance on The Story right after the interview.) She has also hosted other Kavanaugh cheerleaders including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC),White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, and conservative pundits Tammy Bruce and Ben Shapiro.
- In apparent ignorance that sexual assailants doesn’t typically assault every person they meet, MacCallum also hosted two ex-girlfriends of Kavanaugh’s to defend the nominee.
- On her September 17 show, MacCallum compared the Kavanaugh confirmation process to that of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, in which lawyer Anita Hill testified under oath that Thomas had sexually harassed her. In her comparison, MacCallum noted, “Back in 1991, Judge Thomas was of course confirmed. But in this #MeToo era, will both sides get a fair hearing?”
- MacCallum has tweeted in other instances about what’s “fair” or not fair to consider when evaluating Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court.
The rest of Fox News had already set the stage for every nonsensical, insulting defense in the book
Many Fox News personalities-- including several who have the ear of the president -- have recently been going all in on a pro-Kavanaugh public relations campaign, from dismissing the reports against him to attacking or otherwise attempting to discredit the women who came forward. Just in the day leading up to MacCallum’s interview:
- Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro was speculating that Ford had been hypnotized;
- Fox & Friends guest co-host Anna Kooiman and The Ingraham Angle host Laura Ingraham both suggested Ramirez’s account of sexual assault could be a strategic ploy by Democrats; and
- Fox Business host Dagen McDowell questioned the “timing” of the account becoming public.
And that’s just from Monday. Over the past couple of weeks, Fox personalities have promoted Ed Whelan's absurd doppelganger theory, latched onto other absurd smears of Ford and Ramirez, suggested the women were in cahoots with Democrats, and even flatly declared Ford’s account was “not a sexual assault.”
MacCallum previously used her show to cast doubt on harassment and assault cases
Before Ford or Ramirez shared their public accounts, and before Kavanaugh was nominated, MacCallum had made The Story a safe space for other high-profile men reported for sexual misconduct and devoted airtime to questioning the prevalence of sexual assault while boosting the myth that false accusations are widespread.
- In 2015, MacCallum hosted a special on Fox News about campus sexual assault that perpetuated harmful myths about reports of assault and focused on the rights of “the accused.”
- In a column promoting the special on Fox News’ website, MacCallum wrote that she believed some people who share public accounts of sexual assault were not assaulted but merely “wish they could change the choices they made.” In the same column, MacCallum also cast doubt on the statistic that one in five women are assaulted during college, suggesting the number could be “far lower.”
- MacCallum hosted a Roy Moore defender on The Story to attack one of the women who shared public accounts of sexual abuse or harassment by Moore when they were teenagers or very young adults (Moore was running to represent Alabama on the U.S. Senate). “His opponents are looking for anything they can possibly find to take him down,” she said during the segment.
- MacCallum lamented, in the case of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz’s public report of rape by fellow student Paul Nungesser, that Sulkowicz had become “a celebrity” since coming forward while Nungesser received death threats.
MacCallum was a Roger Ailes loyalist, and she reportedly attacked his accusers
This isn’t the first time MacCallum has lent her credibility as a Fox woman to a PR offensive for an alleged sexual abuser. Both behind the scenes and publicly, MacCallum was an early supporter of former Fox News chief Roger Ailes after former anchor Gretchen Carlson first went public with her lawsuit in 2016 alleging serial sexual harassment by Ailes and a permissive, toxic culture at Fox News. MacCallum was “one of the first to attack Gretchen Carlson & defend Roger Ailes when Gretchen sued for sexual harassment!” tweeted Carlson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith. She was one of several female Fox News figures who joined Fox’s PR offensive after the Carlson lawsuit was filed, offering quotes to multiple outlets about how great working with Ailes had been.